Assessing Covid-19’s impact on the VMS industry

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Despite various countries going into lockdown, governments are still allowing “essential” services and businesses to remain operational, putting the role of the dietary supplements industry in the spotlight. In some countries, like New Zealand, supplement marketers are allowed to maintain their operations as long as they are supplying “essential” businesses, such as pharmacies and supermarkets. However, according to the guidance provided by New Zealand Natural Health Products, health food stores do not fit the description of “essential” businesses.

The situation is similar but more complex in the USA, home to the world’s No.1 VMS market. While essential food and drug suppliers are open for business during Covid-19 restrictions, industry leaders are working to ensure that the same applies to speciality health food stores and cannabis dispensaries. No specific federal regulation is in place, but “essential business” status is being determined at state and local level. While California most decisively classified workers supporting cannabis and dietary supplement retail as essential workers, and Illinois added licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centres to its essential healthcare operations list, not all states have set such guidelines.

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In a letter to state governors, industry associations including the Consumer Healthcare Products Association urge that supplement supply chains remain open in all states, arguing that now more than ever, consumers need essential nutrients to stay fit and healthy and proactively reduce their risk of chronic diseases without burdening an already overstretched healthcare system. They write: “As each of you plan your own approach to this challenging issue, we respectfully request you mirror White House / Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines and make special accommodation for critical infrastructure industries that specifically include not only conventional foods but all subcategories of food, including dietary supplements, infant formulas, medical foods and spices & flavours.”

As for how the Covid-19 crisis will affect the VMS market, it’s clear that some categories stand to benefit more than others. Herbal & natural immune stimulants and vitamin C supplements are likely to see the biggest boost, as long as supply chains can be maintained. In certain markets, such as India and China, there is likely to be a rise in sales of country-specific natural remedies (Ayurvedic medicine and TCM) positioned for immunity support, though marketers will have to be wary of government clampdowns on products that are claimed to prevent or cure Covid-19.

For a full analysis of Covid-19’s impact on the global CHC market, pick up a copy of our all-new Hot Topic review Coronavirus 2020 and its potential impact on CHC from Nicholas Hall’s CIMA division. Buyers of this report will also receive a situation update in six months time. For more information, or to purchase your copy, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

Nestle and Valbiotis in prediabetes partnership

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Last week, French-based R&D company Valbiotis signed a global long-term strategic partnership with Nestle Health Science for the development and commercialisation of Totum-63, a patented combination of five plant extracts specifically designed to reduce the risk of developing T2 diabetes in prediabetics. According to reports, Nestle Health Science will pay CHF5mn (US$5.1mn) upfront, development & sales milestone payments up to CHF66mn (US$68mn) and tiered royalties on net sales. The partnership will support Valbiotis’ work in a number of ways, including funding the latest clinical development phase until health claims are obtained in USA and Europe. 

Back in September 2019, Valbiotis released positive results from the Phase IIa study of Totum-63, revealing that it met its primary endpoint of reducing fasting blood glucose levels among 51 participants who received 5g / day or placebo for six months. The full results show that Totum-63 also met secondary endpoints, significantly reducing blood triglyceride levels by 32.2%, fatty liver index by 18.7%, arterial hypertension in hypertensive people and blood LDL cholesterol levels by 11.7% vs placebo. A preclinical study (in mice) also found that Totum-63 corrected blood levels of insulin, glucagon and glucagon-like peptide-1, hormones central to the regulation of blood glucose. At the time, Valbiotis CEO Sebastien Peltier said these results pave the way for new opportunities in “promising markets”, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver or arterial hypertension.

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Diabesity was one of the chapters in our recent signature New Paradigms report, with one section looking at the huge potential of supplements for diabetes management. However, many of these are local brands that have only managed to carve out a small niche in their respective markets. The potential for a CHC brand for prediabetes / diabetes with a truly global scale is vast. According to Valbiotis, there are an estimated 900mn people worldwide that are prediabetic, and around 700mn people globally are forecast to contract T2 diabetes by 2045.

Nicholas Hall Writes: When Nestle walked away from the Merck Consumer Health bidding in February 2018, citing high price expectations, I wondered what that meant for the Health Science strategy. To judge by Valbiotis and other recent deals, Nestle seems more interested in buying new technologies than brands. Work we’ve done recently in this category has shown that there is a large population at risk of contracting diabetes, particularly in the Emerging Markets; but this prediabetes initiative will require vast amounts of consumer and HCP education. The question is whether the Valbiotis product, in the safe commercial hands of Nestle Health Science, can persuade consumers to take a pill for a condition they don’t yet have. But it’s worth the effort and could be a significant opportunity for both parties.

Join Nicholas Hall and Everything Health in New Jersey on 8 October 2020 to explore The Future is Now! Consumer Healthcare Reimagined with an optional workshop on 9 October hosted by The CHC Training Institute. To book your place and save with the early-bird booking discount, or to find out about sponsorship opportunities, please contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com.

Fish oils again under the spotlight

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As reported in our newly published Q2 2019 update, herbal & natural supplements are performing well, up 4.4% globally, thanks to a revival in sales in North America that is partly powered by a return to growth for fish oils & omega-3. This well-developed OTC subcategory generates close to US$2bn in global sales, and after two years of decline in 2015 and 2016, turnover has been rising slowly but surely in recent years. An article that appeared in the New York Times over the weekend, however, entitled Should I Take Fish Oil?, has the potential to halt these gains.

Describing the results of omega-3 studies so far as “inconclusive and inconsistent”, the article calls for further large-scale scientific trials, such as the recent VITAL study, which found that omega-3 supplements didn’t reduce the risk of major cardiac events in a usual-risk population, but did reduce the risk in a subset of people with low fish intake by 19%. The article also pointed to environmental concerns about the fish reduction industry, advocating for vegan and algae-based omega-3 supplements instead.

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The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and other industry bodies, like the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED), are obviously concerned about this article and its ramifications for the fish oils market. One thing worth emphasising about the article is that it doesn’t discount the importance of omega-3 fatty acids as essential nutrients and it doesn’t change the current recommendations by authoritative sources who support intake of omega-3 fatty acids for maintaining overall health.

According to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people should aim to consume eight or more ounces of seafood per week, especially fatty fish, however the reality is that the majority of people don’t manage to achieve this through their diet. For many consumers, especially those with a low fish intake, taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements remains the most prudent choice to ensure the adequate levels needed for good health.

Only two weeks to go until Nicholas Hall’s OTC.NewDirections Executive Conferencetaking place in London on 14 November 2019! Nicholas will be joined by experts from companies including Bayer, Mundipharma and J&J to review key issues impacting our industry and ensure that you are Keeping Consumers in the Spotlight. Unable to join us? Watch Nicholas’ opening address live on the day here at 09:05 on 14 November. To experience the event in full, you can book your place or find out more by contacting jennifer.odonnell@NicholasHall.com without delay.

Global OTC market still subdued in Q2

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New figures from Nicholas Hall’s OTC sales database DB6 reveal that, in MAT Q2 2019 (the 12 months to end-June 2019), the global OTC market remained subdued, recording an increase of just 3.6% to total US$137.9bn in turnover. North America generated growth of 2.6%, with USA (+2.7%) improving slightly compared to MAT Q1; however, the market continues to be held back by a lack of switch activity. Canada performed poorly with sales up by just 2.1%.

In Europe (+2.1%), the OTC market also remained sluggish, with most key markets posting low single-digit growth, while Russia (-0.6%), France (-1.4%) and Switzerland recorded declines. Germany (+0.1%), Italy (+2.6%) and the UK (+1.1%) all managed modest increases. Poland was the one bright spot with a rise of 7.9%, driven by high levels of NPD and Rx-to-OTC switch activity. Looking at the Middle East & Africa, Turkey (+15.8%) remained the fastest-growing of the Top 20 markets, driven by high inflation.

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As for Asia-Pacific, growth decelerated to 4.2%, with slowdowns recorded in China (+5.3%), India (+7.5%) and Australia (+1.6%), while sales in Japan (+0.9%) remained flat. Both China and India were impeded by a comparatively low-key cough & cold season and weakening economies. Latin America (+8.3%) continued to be the best performing region, with the two largest OTC markets Brazil (+7.7%) and Mexico (+9.3%) showing resilience in the face of a challenging macroeconomic landscape.

Vitamins, minerals & supplements still generate the largest share (30%) of the global OTC market by major category, but growth slowed in Q2 to 3.7%. Key categories like probiotics and multivitamins reported slowdowns in Q2 2019, especially in the USA, which is struggling this year to replicate the strong performance of its dietary supplements market in 2018.

Nicholas Hall’s Future Opportunities & Growth Drivers in VMS – A Strategic Review of Vitamins, Minerals & Supplements is now available! This all-new report analyses a range of VMS categories including multivitamins, probiotics, OTC tonic drinks, mineral supplements plus many others, alongside looking at the latest trends, brand studies and launch activity. Click here to purchase your copy or to take a look at the full table of contents! To find out more about this key report, or to order your copy, please contact Melissa.Lee@NicholasHall.com

Natural & Organic a focus for M&A and innovation

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Continuing our series of blogs on the 10 Infinity Zones for future CHC growth recently outlined by Nicholas Hall, in this edition we take a closer look at natural & organic products. This is by no means a new trend, but it’s certainly one increasingly on the radar of multinationals, as exemplified by J&J’s recent purchase of Zarbee’s Naturals.

Among herbal & natural cough remedies, Zarbee’s has been gaining share on rivals such as Little Remedies, Hyland’s and Chestal, while also growing faster than most medicated OTC cough remedies. Another growth driver in the US market is Maty’s all-natural and organic range, including honey-based cough remedies, while Unilever recently bought Olly Nutrition, another range of VMS products with a strong emphasis on natural ingredients, such as the 10 phytonutrients in its Super Foods Multi line.

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A+P for most herbal & natural products often emphasises the importance of quality standards and – increasingly – organic and responsibly-­sourced ingredients. In China, the No.1 probiotic brand Biostime (Health & Happiness for Institut Rosell) is promoted on the basis of the organic sourcing of its ingredients, while marketing involving brand ambassador Juliette Binoche also emphasises the natural heritage of the brand.

According to OTC New Products Tracker, the number of launches that include the word “organic” either in their branding or list of ingredients is growing fast, with 246 innovations in 2018 vs 168 in 2017 and just 81 in 2016. Over half of these products are unsurprisingly classified as vitamins, minerals & supplements, however there is also a growing number of “organic” Lifestyle OTCs, especially among medical cannabis products, sedatives & sleep aids and stimulants.

Last chance to pre-order Nicholas Hall’s New Paradigms for CHC 2019: Over the Horizon, written by Nicholas himself! Examine each aspect of the CHC industry in 20 chapters, with a focus on major issues including Regulation, Pharmacy Point-of-Care, M&A, Switch and much more. Nicholas will also unveil the “infinity zones” he has identified as being crucial to the future growth of the industry. In addition to this, you can upgrade your purchase to include a customised in-house presentation or webinar with Nicholas for an additional GB£10,000. To find out more or to place your order, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

Prevention better (and growing faster) than cure

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For many years now, Nicholas Hall has been highlighting how OTC subcategories focused on prevention are growing faster than those directed towards treatment or intervention. This long-term trend in the CHC industry continues to take root, thanks to the growing power of categories like probiotics (another Infinity Zone, covered in last week’s blog).

At this year’s Vienna conference, Nicholas Hall presented a slide of the fastest-growing OTC subcategories by CAGR (2014-18), comparing those focused on prevention with those centred around treatment, and this showed that seven of the Top 10 most dynamic subcategories in recent years had a preventive focus. Sexual health is a relatively new driver of this trend, with two subcategories in the Top 5 – erectile dysfunction and emergency hormonal contraception.

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Vitamins, minerals & supplements have long been the main driver of this prevention trend, with probiotics and vitamin D the two key subcategories. Innovation and niche product positioning (i.e. to prevent allergies, candidiasis, age-related illnesses, etc) have helped fuel probiotics growth, while the dynamism of vitamin D sales has been driven by rising awareness of the high levels of deficiency in many markets and the benefits  of supplementation.

Herbal memory & brain health is an increasingly attractive subcategory, as exemplified by RB’s recent launch of Neuriva, a new product designed to support “brain fitness” and prevent cognitive decline. Royal jelly is taken widely in Europe and Asia-Pacific as a way to prevent fatigue, while just outside the Top 10 in CAGR terms are magnesium, zinc, pregnancy vitamins and hair & beauty supplements. According to OTC New Products Tracker, the latter was the fifth most active OTC subcategory in 2018 in terms of launch activity, with 150 innovations.

Last chance to pre-order Nicholas Hall’s New Paradigms for CHC 2019: Over the Horizon, written by Nicholas himself! Examine each aspect of the CHC industry in 20 chapters, with a focus on major issues including Regulation, Pharmacy Point-of-Care, M&A, Switch and much more. Nicholas will also unveil the “infinity zones” he has identified as being crucial to the future growth of the industry. In addition to this, you can upgrade your purchase to include a customised in-house presentation or webinar with Nicholas for an additional GB£10,000. To find out more or to place your order, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

AI to power personalised nutrition

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An article that appeared over the weekend in The New York Times by US cardiologist and digital medicine researcher Eric Topol pointed to the power of artificial intelligence to provide personalised diet and nutrition advice. Algorithms that could advise us on what’s lacking in our diet and recommend supplements or foods that would fill those gaps hold great promise for both consumers and VMS marketers, and rapid advances in AI technology are bringing such a reality closer.

However, Topol says that the science of nutrition still remains in its infancy, and that most studies rely on observational data such as food diaries, unreliable sources of information which prevent any high-quality trials establishing cause and effect. More importantly, Topol says the central flaw in this field of research is the idea that there is one optimal diet for all people.

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One pioneer in the field of personalised nutrition is US supplement marketer Thorne, which repackaged its products and launched a new range of at-home diagnostic tests in 2018, providing personalised health and diet plans, including VMS supplement recommendations. Other US VMS marketers operating in this emerging field of personalised nutrition, and which have launched products recently picked up by Nicholas Hall’s OTC New Products Tracker, include Ladder and Persona.

There is also the emerging field of nutrigenomics, with companies marketing DNA tests that offer personalised diet plans, though Topol advises caution here, saying that a truly personalised diet would involve taking many more factors into account than just genetics. He cites the importance of microbiome analysis, lifestyle, medication, family history, immune system and many other factors, and says that no AI is yet on the market that can analyse all this data and offer personalised solutions.

But there is cause for hope. Studies monitoring spikes in blood glucose levels after eating have made some breakthroughs, pointing to the importance of our gut microbiome, and there is now a commercial version of the DayTwo personalised nutrition test available, based on the research of Dr Segal and Dr Elinav. Topol also mentions other advances, such as AI deep learning tools that can analyse smartphone photos of a user’s meals to record nutritional intake, replacing the need for food diaries. Topol also stresses the importance of wearables, such as smartwatches and skin patches, as aids in unlocking a future of virtual health coaches offering personalised nutrition advice to us all.

Review 17,000+ new launches and innovations with OTC New Products Tracker, the ultimate competitive intelligence tool! Products are given a star rating, with “me too” items ranked 1*; launches / line extensions in a new category / adjacency 2*; major launches / line extensions with strong new benefits / positioning 3*, and 1st Rx-to-OTC switches in a category, creation of a new OTC class or other major leaps in innovation 4*. With a recently-released major update including eye-catching new graphics and powerful search filters that help you visualise and explore the vast archive according to your exact requirements, now is the ideal time to set up your free trial. For a demo or more information, contact waisan.lee-gabell@NicholasHall.com.